John Simon: Europe-to-Boston moves revving up


At Sigma Prime Ventures in Boston, two of the firm’s investments this year have gone into companies that were founded in Europe but have opted to scale up in Boston — BlueConic and Codeship.

It’s not a new trend — companies have long opted to cross the pond to Boston due to the proximity to Europe and other factors — but it’s one that’s accelerating, said Sigma Prime managing director John Simon.

“I think we’re going to see a lot more of that over the next five to 10 years,” Simon said, citing Boston’s growing prominence as a tech hub and a rising interest among Boston-area venture firms — such as Sigma Prime — in bringing European companies here.

In the case of BlueConic, a marketing software firm founded in the Netherlands in 2010, Simon said the company had been “hotly pursued by a couple companies that were interested in acquiring them.”

“That really wasn’t the direction they wanted to go. They really wanted to build a company — a large company, with hundreds of millions of revenue and a really important footprint,” he said.

John Simon

John Simon

BlueConic essentially uses information on customer’s online activity to create master profiles for each customer that a company has. The profiles can be used by the company to better engage with the customer, such as through individualized offers. (The company does not share the profile information with anyone else, Simon said.)

Users of BlueConic so far include Volvo and Pitney Bowes, but “if I roll the clock forward five years from now, every major company will have technology like this,” Simon said.

The company raised $3 million led by Sigma Prime in February, and has since moved its headquarters to Atlantic Avenue in the Boston Financial District. BlueConic employs 30 and could grow to 100 employees within the next year-and-a-half, Simon said.

Codeship, meanwhile, was founded in Austria and initially landed in Boston for the Techstars Boston accelerator last year. The startup enables companies to more quickly deploy changes to their online software.

Codeship had considered moving to San Francisco but chose Boston due to the strength of the company’s network in the city and the smaller time difference with Europe, cofounder and CEO Moritz Plassnig told me previously. Codeship raised $2.6 million led by Sigma Prime in February.

Simon, formerly a founder and managing director of General Catalyst Partners, said he expects to see “quite a bit more of these companies that were foreign-born and foreign-proven moving over to establish themselves in Boston — not choosing the Valley or New York.”

Along with the smaller time difference and shorter travel distances, Boston maintains “cultural similarity” to Europe, he said.

“As opposed to the Valley, where [employees] are hopping from company to company every year, this is a very appealing place to build an organization.”

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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